[EM] UK electoral systems "post mortem" discussion on radio

Juho Laatu juho.laatu at gmail.com
Fri Jun 12 14:30:25 PDT 2015

> On 09 Jun 2015, at 23:47, Gervase Lam <gervase at madasafish.com> wrote:
> A few weeks back, I heard on the radio a reasonable discussion about the
> chances of electoral reform in the UK.  It sounded like one of the
> panellists in the discussion knew of the various ("complicated") PR
> systems more than the average person.
> In any case, only glancing mentions were made about other electoral
> systems.  The panellist knew the target audience.  I think this is
> understandable given that the target audience really want good results,
> not a "technical" system.

The Scottish system was used as an example. It is a natural candidate since people often do not want any "foreign" systems but something more familiar and something they can trust. In addition to this kind of ranked / STV style systems there are also other kind of PR systems, like party list based systems. Although most systems are more complicated than the FPTP, I think they are simple enough since they seem to work in many countries. A proportional system can work well even if regular voters do not know the details of the counting process well enough to explain how the system works. For them it is enough to understand how to vote, and to have some general trust in the fairness on the system.

In the broadcast they discussed whether a reform is possible or not. If people want a reform, the reform might come because of good experiences in some parts of the country (Scotland), in some other elections (local, EU), or if voters are active enough and form a movement with wide support. Although the incumbent parties are likely to oppose any changes to the system, there is a tipping point somewhere. The voters can change things if there is strong and wide enough interest.

I find PR natural because I'm so used to it. But it is obvious that also many FPTP countries have been great (and democratic) success stories. UKIP and green ideas will find their way to the programs of the largest parties if there is a risk that they will lose their dominant position otherwise. It may be disappointing though if you never get a representative in some areas even if you would vote for the same mid size party all your life. Maybe PR gives voters a more concrete voice in this sense. But it is up to the UK voters to decide whether they want to continue with the FPTP tradition (with "rough median guidance") or with PR (with "fair number of representatives for all").

PR countries can have stable governments even if they are usually coalition governments. One just has to build the political system in a slightly different way.


> Anyway, the link for the broadcast in question is below.
> <http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02q9wgx>
> It starts around 2h08m at lasts just over 25 minutes with musical
> breaks.  It ends with a brief discussion about maybe having politicians
> being homeless people!
> There's under 40 hours to listen to it as of writing this.
> Sorry for the late notice for this.  I've been meaning to send this much
> much earlier.  However, it was more difficult to track down than I
> thought (I was searching wrong radio station until today!) plus I had
> other things to attend to.  Better late than never...?
> Thanks,
> Gervase.
> ----
> Election-Methods mailing list - see http://electorama.com/em for list info

More information about the Election-Methods mailing list